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Talking Points

For some reason there were only ten seats at the table in the jury room, but there was a bench along the wall where the other two members made themselves comfortable. It didn't keep them from contributing to the discussion. I planted myself strategically in a central location. I planned it so I wouldn't stand out and get called on too often. That's how it worked in school, but here it turned out to be the opposite. I was in a place where it was easy to make my voice heard.

Not that I began with the intention of being a vocal advocate for anything. That seat was also a good spot for listening, and I did a lot of that at first. Our foreman (by unanimous consent of the "you want it, you got it" variety) threw out the first question. Did we have enough evidence to convict? If we could all agree on that, one way or the other, we might be nearer the end than anyone believed.

Some of us thought the evidence was clear and compelling. I was one of those jurors who thought that way. I had spent most of the night thinking about the evidence and coming to that conclusion. I could still be swayed, but I wondered how many others felt the same, and how many had doubts. I wasn't ready to fight for my position if I was the only one who held it.

However, those who felt the other way, that the evidence we'd heard wasn't enough, weren't going to back down easily. That was obvious from the start, and after talking about it for a while, the foreman suggested we go around the table and just say out loud where we stood at the moment. Nothing was carved in stone; it was just a starting point.

The foreman pointed to the man at his left. Guilty. I was next. Guilty. But it wasn't unanimous. It wasn't even close to unanimous. In fact, it was seven to five, in favor of Not Guilty. We weren't going to get out of there as quickly as some of us thought. It's a good thing the jury room had its own private bathroom.

Somehow it surprised me that the ex-Marine who was our foreperson and the last to record a vote this first time through was in the Not Guilty camp. I'm not sure why I automatically thought he'd be so ready to convict Spike. Men and women were in equal numbers on the jury, and there was no gender bias either way. We were as evenly divided as 7-5 could be.

The foreman laid out his position, which was the view of many on the Not Guilty camp. He said he had no doubt that Spike had done what he was accused of. He had slashed Satchel's tires and he had kicked in the garage door. The consensus was strong on this point. Nobody thought anyone else was likely to have done it. He just wasn't sure the prosecutor had made the case.

One woman said she couldn't be sure it wasn't a random act of vandalism. She said we could never know that someone else, someone we didn't know about, hadn't done the damage. I conceded that it was possible, but the judge told us we didn't have to find that there was no "shadow of a doubt," only that there was no "reasonable doubt." Common sense told me it was unreasonable to think the crime was random, given the history of the people involved.

Someone else offered the theory that Spike had been set up by Lucy, Casper and Satchel, in order to get him sent away and out of their lives. While this might have been possible, most of us didn't believe those three were capable of carrying out a simple plot, much less an elaborate one that involved a 911 call and damage to the house that still hasn't been repaired. Having seen them in court, it was almost laughable to think they could have pulled it off.


So far, the doubts that had been raised by individual jury members didn't dissuade me from my opinion that Spike was guilty. But we were at this point maybe an hour into the discussion, and we had a long way to go. Many more points were yet to be raised. It seemed everyone who thought he should be found not guilty had a different reason for taking that position. But those of us who were ready to find him guilty had a variety of arguments as well. This wasn't going to be easy, and it definitely wasn't going to be quick.

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